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Tag Archives: aging

The Meaning of a Kiss

My father calls just as we are about to leave the car.

It’s his third call of the day.

“Don’t pick up,” my husband instructs, fixing me with a hard stare.

But I do, immediately rummaging through my bag for a chocolate kiss and popping one in my mouth. Sugar calms. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

“Hi Dad,” I say pleasantly, the sweetness softening my tongue. “You’re at your doctor appointment?”

“Yes,” he grumbles dejectedly, sounding lost and faraway, which he is. “But they are taking a long time.”

“Let’s go,” My husband interrupts, exiting the car and opening the back door to release the children. I shoot him my nasty eye glare, which he returns to me with his own give-me-a-break eye roll. Touche.

“Don’t worry,” I hurriedly assure my father, the last bits of patience dissolving in my mouth. “There’s plenty of time.”

I hang up mildly abruptly, the only way with him, and hurry to catch up with my husband and our three boys who are already headed into the hospital to visit my husband’s aunt.

She has some health problems, but the biggest is her progressing dementia. Still, she nods pleasantly when we arrive; possibly happy to see us, possibly uncertain who we are.

We try to prompt some conversation but quickly realize that a polite, vacant, ‘No thank you’, ‘yes’, or ‘I don’t know’ is as much as she’s capable of giving. It’s uncomfortable and ultimately we give up on talk, instead opting to hyper focus on our blissfully ignorant boys as they spin quarters across the table.

They are too wild, but she doesn’t really seem to notice; her line of vision both straight ahead and internal. Remembering her fondness for sweets, I find some more chocolate kisses and set them in front of her. Slowly she reaches for one, automatically unwrapping it, and placing it in her mouth. I feel a childish pride in her acceptance and wish I had something more to offer.

Suddenly without prompting, she announces to everyone and no-one, “Time for bed.”

My husband and I look at each other startled. Was she asking us to leave? Were my boys too loud? I immediately stop the game of quarters.

Shortly after, we say our good-byes and leave her sitting in the same seat we found her, still staring straight ahead; her aged fingers slowly working the silver foil of another chocolate.

Back in the car, I notice a missed call from my father. Taking a deep breath, I dial his number and unconsciously search my bag for another kiss, which soothes me the moment it touches my lips. It makes me think of my husband’s aunt, sitting straight and placid; seemingly unaffected by our visit, her mouth full of chocolate but no words, and wonder if she was doing the same with us.

 

kisses

 

 

Your breast way to age

“Um, what’s this you ordered?”

I heard my husband’s voice lifted in curiosity from the other room and immediately knew what he was asking about.

“Why do your breasts need a pillow?” He asked with brows raised, walking in holding a package looking both baffled and intrigued.

“Wait.” He stopped himself and me before I could answer. “It’s for your mother, right?”

I was about to nod yes, but he didn’t need me to and continued his conversation with himself. “I knew it.” He studied the golden package, turning it over in his hands. The picture showed a woman with a device that looked like a small baby carrier; straps over the shoulders and a small hour glass shaped pillow running down thru the breast area.

“What is it for?”  His eyes held the confusion of men everywhere trying desperately to understand women things.

Again, I opened my mouth to explain, but he put an end to the one sided conversation by tossing the package back on the table and rolling his eyes. “Forget it. I don’t want to know.”

He was right. He didn’t want to know. Only my mother could find a pillow intended to support the breasts during sleep to keep them from pushing up and creating wrinkles in the sensitive décolleté area. If you don’t know what that is, it’s the area of skin under the neck and above the breast, generally exposed to sun and prone to wrinkles and discoloration as we age. Apparently, just having breasts and sleeping promotes these wrinkles as well.

Luckily my mother has the great and powerful Dr. Oz to inform her of all these miracles to help reduce her lines and leave her forever young. Remember when the end all be all of TV host promotion revolved around Oprah sharing her favorite things? Ah, simpler times.

Now Oz promotes everything from HCG injection diets to Oil of Oregano, Green coffee bean extract, Garcinia Cambogia, the Breast Pillow and a million other supplements, ingredients, foods and lifestyle choices. He’s got a hand on your heart, on your waist and even up your pants. He is all over you and all your health and vanity needs.

What beauty wisdom my mom doesn’t receive from Oz is made up from 3am infomercials promising to erase wrinkles in seconds. I try to tell her if maybe she stopped worrying and slept more it would do the same job.

But what do I know. Until recently, I thought decollate was a kind of vintage looking art work, but I then I found out that was decoupage. My bad.

So what was this pillow doing at my house anyway? Turns out, my mother is as notoriously bad at internet shopping as she is good at finding miracle anti-aging products. So, from time to time, she tells me what she wants and I order it for her on-line.

Oz reveals the secrets. I find them on Amazon. My mother basks in her youthful glow.

But if you ask my husband, it should all remain a mystery.

Oh, it exists.

Oh, it exists.

 

 

 

 

Getting Lost

I was driving home from the gym, my thoughts on other things. Mostly, I was worrying over my last conversation with my father. He had forgotten to secure a ride for his upcoming doctor appointment. He had also forgotten to mail me a letter I had asked for half a dozen times, and he had lost his debit card. Again.

None of this was too out of the ordinary. Worrisome, yes, but it had been going on a long time. Compared with other moments like, forgetting whether he took his medications, that he was smoking before he fell asleep, or to turn off the stove, I couldn’t complain.

Still, it left me, as always, unsettled; wondering if he really shouldn’t be in some type of care facility. I knew he wasn’t capable of living alone, even with the home health aide coming in daily. He knew it as well, but that didn’t stop him from fighting on threat of his life to remain independent.

It was a lose, lose battle for both us, and one so exhausting and old that my brain moved on, remembering that I needed to pick up the dry cleaning and calculating whether I had enough time for the supermarket before school let out. Suddenly, I looked around and realized I didn’t recognize where I was.

I had driven this seven minute route to and from the gym, hundreds of times. How could I possibly not know where I was?  I certainly wasn’t far, ten blocks at most. Yet, it all looked unfamiliar. Did I not take the right turn? There were only three or four turns to take. Where was I?

I panicked, gazing around at the lovely overhanging trees, trying to place my surroundings, and drawing a complete blank.

On instinct, I made a U-turn and headed back in the direction I came. Before I even reached the first intersecting block, I knew exactly where I was. On the right road. Of course.

I turned the car back around again, and almost laughed out loud at my senior moment. I was so distracted, I had lost my bearings on a block I had traveled hundreds of times.

I made the next left and headed the next few blocks till I made another right, traveled five more blocks and pulled in my driveway. Home.

I put the car in park and felt ridiculously relieved and slightly shaken. It was frightening not being able to trust your instincts. It immediately brought me back to my father.

Every day, he loses his train of thought, his focus, his time. Every day we argue about things beyond our control. Because it’s one thing to lose your way, but another to lose yourself.

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I’m sexy and no one knows it

I might be having a mid-life crisis.

I’m not sure because crisis is exactly the opposite of how I’m feeling, which is sexy.

Hard to believe, since I can no longer just bend down and get up in a single motion, and have a wrinkle in between the brow that is now a crevice you could lose things in. Still, I’m sashaying around wearing all my fancy clothes that are actually years old, but I would never wear before because apparently, I was saving them for my mid-life crisis. Also, I have clean hair. Never underestimate the power of clean hair.

I had no idea that this feeling was one of the mid-life symptoms. So I started researching, and sexy wasn’t anywhere on the list of what to expect.

It did say that mid-life is the time more people step out with a young lova. But this makes no sense to me. Someone young cannot see someone middle aged without causing one to die of shock and the other of embarrassment. If anything, I’d have to get me a very old, blind lova. That is, if my husband says it’s okay.

They also say there’s a lot of reassessment, and I have been contemplating my life lately and wondering if I actually have one.

Many people quit their jobs. I don’t have a job. Maybe I’ll get a job! Yeah!  That’s it.

But then how could I go to the gym to lose the five pounds I need to rock my minivan right and attract my old, blind lova? All of sudden, I understand why men buy Porsches. They’re feeling it and want to show off their badass selves, while they’re still badass.

I read that mid-life crisis’ spurs drinking, so I bought a couple of cases of wine because I like to be prepared. I don’t know if that would go over well on my new job, but I’m thertainly giving it the ole college try. urp.

Not that I’m qualified for anything anymore.

I can just see me at a business lunch, cutting up a client’s food and then, if he gets distracted by our fascinating conversation about what’s on sale at the supermarket, forking some fish into his mouth. At least since he ordered it, it wouldn’t come back out in a disgusted dribble like I just fed him clumped dirt. So there’s that.

Okay, forget the job. I’ve got too much to do anyway. Let’s see… well, the kids are all finally at school, leaving me with the bulk of the day to my own devices. It’s the first time in over ten years that I’ve had the house to myself for the hours of 8:30am-3pm.

It’s amazing. I can actually think when they’re gone.

Silence.

Think.

They are gone. My babies! Oh my babies are gone!! Oh my GOD!!!

Pause for slug of wine.

Okay, deep breaths. Much better.

I do wonder what is going on in my body that’s making feel so full of… No. Not myself. I was going to say, life. Whatever it is, I’m feeling good. Maybe I’ll take up tennis. Or start running races. Or schedule a little fix in the face? Or dye my hair a ravishing red.

Wait?! What if it’s like when a person is near death, and they all of a sudden get that last surge of energy before the end??!! Oh no!! Is this my last bit of sexy?? Then it’s gone?! FOREVER?!

Well now I’m depressed. They say that’s a sign too.

Pause for another slug.

Whatever. For the moment, I got my sexy back.

Maybe hot flashes will be better than I think.

How you doin?!

How you doin?!

I go for a run. Or so I thought.

We had so many things going on that day, but I figured I’d squeeze in a couple of miles just to kick the day off right. When my husband gave the official eye roll of agreement, I grabbed my Ziploc bag with a cinnamon mint and my cell and was off and running.

phone in bag

Trot, trot, trot. I was cruising along, minding my own mind, trying to decide whether I should wear my navy and cream maxi dress or capris with this cutesy new top my mom just bought me – yes, deep thoughts, people – when my Runkeeper app announced in that warm, automated bank teller voice, “Five minutes, .5 miles with an average pace of 10 minutes 2 seconds per mile.”*

I wasn’t really paying attention because a 10 minute mile for today’s run was perfect. Until I turned the corner and almost collided with a woman I sort of know from either baseball or elementary school or possibly from the neighborhood. She could be a friend of a friend. I don’t know, but I knew her and she knew me and we said hello as she passed me by.

I followed her butt from a car length or so behind and started racing her in my head. I sped up a little, then worried that we’d have this awkward moment where we were running side by side. I’ll just cross the street if that happens, I told myself. I wouldn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable.

Congratulating myself on this brilliant idea, I realized that in the minutes that had passed I was no closer to catching her than I was before. Hmm. Might have to speed up a bit more. Now I’m panting, still waiting for that moment where – oh, ha ha, here we are together – but I had made zero progress.

WTF?! I did a self-confidence check. I’m in decent shape. I’m pretty competitive. I’m not a speed demon, but I’m no slack. She didn’t even look like she was running hard, while I imagine a photo of me would reveal someone who looked like they needed medical attention.

At that moment, Runkeeper announced, “15 minutes, 1.75 miles, with an average pace of 9 minutes 17 seconds per mile.*” Well, that’s certainly faster. Yet, I’m still at least a car length – if not two – behind her.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, she trips.

I watched her fall to the ground and do a kind of half roll. My mouth dropped open, and I am definitely not thinking that this is the moment I catch up to her. I am going to make sure she is okay. I get a little closer and yell, “Are you okay?” but before I reach her, she is back up and on the move again, brushing herself off as she goes.

She doesn’t even turn around, but gives me a little half wave in acknowledgment. Within two minutes, we are back at our regular spots, her striding ahead, me lagging behind.

I’m pissed – no biggie, just a pelvic wall thing from the babies – and I’m frustrated. All my dormant competitive instincts now come alive. Oh yeah, let’s take it up a notch.

I do gain a little ground, but quickly realize as I huff and puff that I am not going to blow this house down. Besides, I wonder, what would I do if I actually caught her? I could probably only match her pace for about a minute, before giving some ridiculous little wave of triumph and slowly falling back to my rightful place behind her.

No. I was humiliated enough. I slowed and followed her swaying short shorts until I hit my block and turned.  She, of course, continued on, forever in front of me, just out of reach.

When I got home, Runkeeper clocked my fastest mile at 8:27. Not bad. I probably should run with her more often.

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*Numbers are approximately accurate, just in case you’re checking my math. 😉

There is a wall up in his studio apartment, and it’s me.

I stood at the door stiff and all business as he puttered around the cluttered apartment looking for his glasses but not finding them, brushing his hair back for the 100th time, searching for a belt to hold up his jeans which kept slipping from his slight lower body, because he was so hunched over.

He hopped around gingerly, bent at his bulging waist, more in line with the floor than the walls, trying to get ready so that we could walk down to the lobby where my husband and three boys waited. Hopped really is the wrong word. It was more of a limp, with a slight, uncoordinated bounce. He was happy to see me.

It had been over two months since we last visited. Visiting wasn’t easy for either of us. We both had expectations. I expected him to be ready to go down and see the grandkids with almost a three hour heads-up on the visit, and he expected me to understand that he couldn’t be rushed.

I understood that, but I could never understand why he couldn’t have most of this stuff done before we arrived. Or, I just couldn’t accept it. He lost time. It was why some mornings when the home health aide came in she’d find him on the floor in the bathroom, or asleep on the chair with the oven on. Alone in his apartment, minutes staring became hours of day dream, or drifted into unconsciousness. I knew it, but similar to my experience with calculus, just because I knew the answer didn’t mean it made any sense to me.

He’s brushing his gums and talking to me simultaneously, moving from the sink, closer to where I stand in the center of the room, with my arms crossed, trying not to touch anything.

“Dad, can we talk after you finish up? After we go down?” It’s been over a half an hour. My husband has called three times, unnecessarily exasperated, threatening to leave me, take the boys to a park and come back after. It’s not helpful.

He looks immediately annoyed. “I’m going as fast as I can.”

“Well, maybe if we didn’t talk in between…”

Slowly, he stops brushing, takes out his toothbrush and points it at me. “This talk is the most important part of the visit. Maybe not to you… but to me.”

I nod in acceptance, but I am expressionless. I feel myself closing up. All I want him to do is finish brushing, take his medicine, find his glasses, put in his teeth, put on his shoes, pull up his pants and go. But, he’s right. The point of my visit is to give him a sense of family, to help him connect and feel less alone, yet, from the moment I walk in, I’m guarded. Pleasant but not warm. Interested but not caring.

I note the cigarette burns on his bed spread, the boxes cluttering the small space, the dozens of medications laid out on the table and I look away. I study the over filled book shelves instead.

I should hug him, but my arms are still crossed.

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My Call of Duty

He’s waiting for my call.

I can see him, crouched over on his bed, trying to rouse himself out of his stupor; hoping a call from me will do the trick, maybe give him some reason to wake up.

I don’t want to call.

I haven’t wanted to call in years. Decades, maybe. But it’s not about what I want, it’s about what he needs. And what he needs is for me to check in on him daily, just to show him someone still cares, that someone is interested in whether he lives or dies. And that someone is me. There is nobody else.

He had his home health aide there earlier but he slept through her entire shift, and now he’s woken up alone. The table is covered with medications of all colors and sizes. The room is littered with books and papers and boxes of clutter. Ash from the cigarettes he shouldn’t be smoking dusts the room.

Getting from the bed to the bathroom is a dangerous escapade with his weakened legs and broken body. Through heavily medicated eyes, he considers his path. It is all so overwhelming, he allows himself the pleasure of closing them.  Sleep is a beautiful thing.

By the time he opens them again, it is over 20 minutes later, but he doesn’t feel the passage of time. He generally doesn’t feel anything, but of course, the pain. And a nagging urge for the bathroom. He considers his walker a few feet away. He should use it for support. He has fallen at least three times this week, and his body is sore from the damage. He can’t fall again.

He wonders if it’s his body that breaks down and then he falls, or his brain that loses focus causing him to fall. Probably both. More than once, he has been woken by his home health aide on the floor, where he fell. The effort to get back up is too much. The frustration unspeakable.

He eyes the walker. In this crowded space, it can be as much an asset as a detriment. Is he strong enough to go it alone? A heavy, head drooping sigh causes him to look down at his feet and notice the rash creeping up his legs. Problems, everywhere he looks. His glance focuses in on the ice cream he took out hours ago, melted on the counter. Oh well. He can pour cereal in it and have it for breakfast, if he ever gets up.

He begins to close his eyes again, telling himself he needs just a little more rest before he makes the attempt, but really he’s just unable to find the motivation to move himself.

The phone rings, distracting his thoughts, waking him a bit, taking him to a more hopeful place.

He’s waiting for my call.

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